Not much about Chrissie Hynde (including the haircut) has changed in the last twenty years. We should all be so lucky. She still possesses an integrity that was cut in the late '70s and has never needed sharpening. That explains why the line "When you own a big chunk of the bloody Third World, the babies just come with the scenery," from "Middle of the Road," is just as relevant today as it was when we first caught a glimpse of this post-Patti Smith punk heroine.
Playing the role of the local native done good, Hynde came on stage, took a look around, and said, "My People." Early numbers like "Message of Love" and "Talk of the Town" were familiar songs played to familiar faces. Even though Hynde could have easily churned out a greatest hits show, she and the band properly supported their latest release, Viva el Amor, and the audience showed respect for the new material. The celebrity-bashing "Popstar" and western-tinged "Biker" were among the highlights.
Though Hynde was the star, guitarist Adam Seymour shone throughout the set. This included a potent Neil Young-looking solo hunched over the guitar, rocking back and forth during "My City Was Gone." Another warm moment came during "Don't Get Me Wrong," when Hynde stopped the track halfway through, saying that her dad was in the audience and would enjoy something a little bit slower. The rest of the song was then delivered with a jazz-swing beat, which worked quite nicely. The somewhat obscure "Tattooed Love Boys" closed the show. Popular tunes not played "Brass in Pocket" and "Mystery Achievement" proved the Pretenders are no greatest hits act just yet.
Hynde has grown older and wiser. She's matured from the angry, sly little sister to a more maternal figure, looking over her flock without condescending. And despite some awkward banter with the crowd, Hynde proved you can go home again, even if your city is gone. John Benson
Blossom Music Center
There was reason to worry about Dwight Yoakam. He's pumped out six albums in the last four years, but only two contained new material, and one of those, 1998's A Long Way Home, was a disappointment. The flurry of unoriginal product a greatest hits, a live record, an album of covers, a Christmas stocking stuffer suggests a level of disinterest, a cashing out of the chips, as the singer pursues a film career.
His Blossom show had a breezy, stripped-down feel. Yoakam dressed in trademark blood-constricting jeans, white tank, dark jacket, and hat walked on stage with his band, forsaking the drama of a delayed entrance. A white banner advertising "Country singin' & hillbilly' shufflin'" was the lone set decoration. The band dressed in simple black and white; the splashes of aqua on guitarist Pete Anderson's bowling shirt denoted his higher rank.
The set list reflected the visual minimalism. As if he were playing a roadhouse on a Saturday night, Yoakam played hillbilly and honky-tonk numbers like "Turn It Up, Turn It On, Turn Me Loose," and "Guitars and Cadillacs" as well as country snugglers like "Heart That You Own" and "Ain't That Lonely Yet." Long-standing covers "Little Sister" and "Streets of Bakersfield" took their bows.
Yoakam didn't tour when A Long Way Home was released, and he was anxious to perform its songs live. The album appears to be special to Yoakam perhaps because he wrote all the songs by himself but it lacks the ambition of recent studio efforts like This Time and Gone. The show, too, could have benefited from more artistic swaths. The darkly majestic Gone, according to my notes, was sadly ignored.
One refreshing element was Yoakam's ease with the audience. Normally Yoakam only addresses the crowd at a few scripted breaks. This night the singer was downright chatty. The reluctant Ohioan even acknowledged that he grew up in Columbus.
Yoakam loyalists winced when "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" drew the biggest response. They winced harder when the band strung out the ending. Yoakam's a magnificent talent, but he didn't calm worries that his head's not fully in the game. David Martin
Davie Allan & the Arrows
Pat's in the Flats
On Thursday, Chrissie Hynde and Debbie Harry rolled into town, but let's give Thursday's Women in Rock award to Pat she of the Pat's in the Flats for booking a double-bill of seasoned survivors who dished out a ten-buck masterpiece.
The highest cover charge in the club's history was a bargain by the time the Knoxville Girls reached the midway point of their third song, "Sixty-Five Days Ago." Ardent sideman Kid Congo Powers was sliding air-raid siren wails from his guitar, while the band was locked in a swirling riff. It was one of several intense instrumental cuts some seemingly less than ninety seconds long that mixed numerous musical styles into a rusty, big-sky howl. Whether it was a cover of Charlie Feathers's "Have You Ever?" or the road-ready "She's My New Dinner," Barry London's organ often pierced through the churning guitars. After some top-notch solos, he'd hand it back to frontman Jerry Teel and his lonesome cigarette vocals. After the set, guitarist Jack Martin recalled that the sound has been called both "no wave" and "wrongabilly." Let's call it countrified Velvet Underground with a dash of Zappa soul.
Following a band with a Technicolor style can be a risky move for a single-sound cult band, but Davie Allan & the Arrows relied on technical tenacity to spin the crowd to their world of B-movie power cuts. The band rode a heavy wave of bottom bass and pipeline guitar that pounded off the walls of the tiny club. Allan himself seemed right at home, considering he hadn't toured since 1967 and was playing his first show ever in town. The August heat never seemed to reach Allan, who was dressed in a black turtleneck, as he generated a precise din of fuzzy riffs with an effortless, California-cool style through "Shape of Things to Come," "Missing Link," and Bobby Fuller's "Our Favorite Martian."
While pulling out cuts from his extensive soundtrack credits, Allen revealed the extent of his talents by putting the danger back into two oft-lampooned Henry Mancini tunes. His "Theme From Peter Gunn" was filled with enough electric swagger that you could swear there were horns swinging in the background. Later, he salvaged Gary Glitter's dreaded rallying cry, "Rock and Roll Part II," from loge-dwelling sports fans. Tim Piai